Illinois wins FutureGen

18 December 2007 — The FutureGen Alliance has selected a site in Illinois for an experimental $1.8 billion zero-emissions coal facility. However, Congress has placed the private-government research project under increasing scrutiny because of cost and long delays.

The price tag is nearly double the $950 million originally projected, with three-fourths of the cost coming from taxpayers.

The industry group selected Mattoon in southern Illinois over another Illinois site at Tuscola, and two locations in Texas (Odessa and Jewett) all of which had received favorable environmental reviews last month.

Michael Mudd, president of the FutureGen Alliance, said at a news conference the decision was not based on politics but on science and the technical benefits shown by the Mattoon location.

The FutureGen Alliance, a consortium of 12 U.S. and foreign energy companies, hoped to have the facility, first proposed eight years ago, completed and operating by 2012.

It is supposed to be virtually pollution-free and produce electricity and hydrogen. Its carbon dioxide, a leading greenhouse gas, is to be captured and buried.

Congress is giving the program $75 million this year, $33 million less than the administration had wanted. Committees overseeing Energy Department spending expressed concern that FutureGen was siphoning money away from other clean-coal programs.

The alliance members (including American Electric Power and Southern Co., and Peabody Energy) have committed $400 million over 10 years.